It really doesn’t take much to throw a geezer off his fitness game. I did something to my left elbow several weeks ago, and I’ve been using it as an excuse for skipping workouts ever since. It hurts to lift weights, which is my favorite form of exercise, so . . . no exercise.
Well, not exactly no exercise: I’m still bicycling every day, cutting the grass and weeding the garden on the weekends, and a couple of weeks ago I carried a couple of couches (one at a time, with some help) down three flights of stairs while moving my daughter into her new apartment — a workout I wouldn’t recommend to anyone over the age of 35. So I haven’t been a complete slug; I’m just out of sync with my usual routine.
It can be tempting at times like these to engage in a little self-bashing, to lament one’s lack of willpower or question whether the goals you’ve set for yourself are realistic. I might fall into that trap if I actually had any goals, but I don’t. It’s all about what’s happening in the here and now. And right here and right now, my left elbow has no interest in bicep curls.
Exercise as Self-Care?
So I was glad to run across a recent Jane Brody column in the New York Times focusing on exercise as self-care. Brody interviewed Michelle Segar, who runs the Sport, Health and Activity Research and Policy Center at the University of Michigan and argues that “everything counts” when it comes to exercise and that any regimen is only sustainable if it sustains us. “I like to think of physical activity as a way to revitalize and renew ourselves, as fuel to better enjoy and succeed at what matters most,” Segar said.
In other words, don’t get caught up in chasing goals — or, in my case, obsessing over missed workouts because my elbow isn’t amenable to hoisting iron. Segar calls it an “if-then” strategy: If you can’t do some activity, then choose something else. “There are so many options — ‘What do I feel like doing today? — then picking the ‘flavor’ of physical activity that feels right for that day and moment.”
While my creaky elbow heals, that might mean I’ll lay off the lifting and work on lower-body exercises or even jump on the dreadmill after work (a doubtful scenario). Maybe I’ll go for a walk down by the creek or finally straighten up my basement workshop. Just don’t ask me to move any furniture.